The Abaza clan, "deeply rooted in Egyptian society and… in the history of the country", is an Egyptian family that has played a powerful and long-standing role in Egyptian cultural, economic, intellectual and political life. Their main stronghold is the Sharqia Governorate. The family today maintains strong connections by marriage with other Egyptian elites.
The Egyptian Abaza family very well known in Egypt because "they seem to have produced an extraordinary number of exemplary individuals. Their family tree – every single generation – is littered with high profile politicians, intellectuals, business moguls and literary sensations."
The Abkhazian Abaza family descends from its modern founding father Hassan Pasha Abaza.
The Abaza family (as of 2013) is the largest family in Egypt.
The family is noted for producing the largest number of noble style holders in Egypt, such as Pashas, Beks/Beys, Hanims, Saheb or Sahebet Ezza, Mqama, Saada, Maaly and Oussma, intellectuals, politicians, business people and men / women of letters.
It is considered the largest extended family in Egypt.
Usually, but not in the latest post-revolutionary parliament, there are several Abaza members of either of Egypt's two Houses of Parliament. In recent governments there were two ministers and the Chief District Attorney of Cairo is also an Abaza. The current Chief Prosecutor of Egypt is married to an Abaza. In addition, a large amount of economic activity is undertaken by the wealthiest Abaza family members. The Abaza opposition Wafd party leader lost his position in 2010.
The Abaza family name is widely recognized by people in most of Egypt.
The Abaza family originated in Abkhazia, a region at the Caucasian Black Sea coast, near Russia and Georgia. Abkhazia is home of the Abkhazians, a people related to the Circassian people and speaking the Abkhaz language. However, intermarriage into native Egyptian families, specifically native upper-class families, was and remains common for Abazas thus ensuring native Egyptian ancestry for the entire clan.
The Abkhazians were one of several Muslim ethnic groups living in the Russian Empire who left during the ethnic cleansing of Circassians in the mid-19th century. However, some sources indicate that the Egyptian Abaza family members emigrated from the Caucasus 600–800 years ago. Many moved to Turkey, but later emigrated again and settled in various Arab countries. In their new Arab home, the Abkhazians took — or were given — the last name "Abaza" (see further). Political activity for the family began at least from the time of Ali Bey Al-Kabir (a Georgian) who appointed an Abaza as the first Egyptian governor of Lower Egypt.
In the study Egypt in the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, Afaf Lutfi Sayyid-Marsot mentions a traditional belief amongst the Egyptian Abaza family that they were named after a "beloved grandmother… or her place of birth". Family elders sat on the Majlis (council) created by Ibrahim Pasha, "uhda" (or royal endowments) of villages and land were obtained by the family and "the Abaza flourished".
During the accession of the young king Farouk, "the Abaza family had solicited palace authorities to permit the royal train to stop briefly in their village so that the king could partake in refreshments offered in a large, magnificently ornamented tent they had erected in the train station".
Members of the Egyptian Abaza clan consider themselves a family, and are categorized as a "family" or "clan" in the country in which they are well known. The Egyptian Abaza family is thought to number around 50,000 members, but this is difficult to verify. There is a common stereotypical assumption widely held in Egypt that all Egyptian Abaza are exceedingly wealthy. This is a false generalization, although most of the Abaza family members are of an at least upper-middle-class status and have incomes higher than the vast majority of the Egyptian population. In addition, most feudal land held by the Abaza family members was lost in the land reforms conducted in the 1950s and 60s under the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser; before that, the Abaza family members had also lost land during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Family members are active both in government and opposition circles, and are generally known to value their aristocratic and noble class position. For example, unlike most Egyptians, the Abaza family is known to strictly use the name "Abaza" following the individual's first name instead of the father's name.
In Egypt the people of Sharqia have been traditionally famed for exceptional generosity to the poor in the past and present. This is most obvious in the tale famed throughout Egypt that the people of Sharqia, where the Abaza family members are powerful, are called idiomatically "those who invited the train", referring to an occasion where a full train had difficulties and the Sharqia residents invited all passengers to dine with them. This led to a legendary saying about the Sharqia governorate's population are extremely generous. [clarification needed] This legend may refer to the occasion where the Abaza family hosted king Farouk's train for his coronation rather than a failed train stopping at the governorate.
This legend is also colloquially applied to the local farmer population as well as the leading clans.
Today many Abaza family members are involved in public life and include those who hold positions in government, generals, opposition activists, human and animal rights activists, a major Egyptian sociologist, journalists, businessmen and women and in many other fields. The family is Muslim but Abaza persons are known to be of the more liberal aristocracy of Egypt.
The Abaza family is connected by marriage to many other aristocratic families and to major politicians.
- Tharwat Abaza, journalist and novelist, whose best-known novel, A Man Escaping from Time, was televised in the late 1960s.
- Rushdy Abaza, actor
- Fekry Abaza, journalist and political activist
- Amina Tharwat Abaza, animal rights activist and founder of Society for Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt
- "Rushdi Abaza, AlexCinema". www.bibalex.org. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- "Abaza Brothers". [dead link]
- Afaf Lutfi Sayyid-Marsot, Egypt in the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, pp. 123–124.
- Yunan Labib Rizk, The making of a king, Al-Ahram Weekly, 762, 29 Sep - 5 Oct 2005.
- Goldschmidt, Jr., Arthur (2000). Biographical Dictionary of Modern Egypt. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-55587-229-8. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- 'Tharwat Abaza, 75; Egyptian Newspaper Columnist, Writer', LA Times, 19 March 2002.